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Hello. When I was younger, single, and essentially spending my money on only guns, reloading supplies, and ammo, I tried many, many, many handguns. Some I still have. These were the ones that surprised me. Though my favorite types of pistols quickly became 9mm Hi Powers and .45 1911 pattern guns, I also had amassed quite a few that simply did better, significantly better, than I'd expected. I still have some of those and continue in this vein today, though I am not so driven to try and own each and every new gun that comes down the pike.

Anyway, here are some handguns, pistols & revolvers, that worked their way into my stable and that I have no intention of getting rid of:


This S&W Model 642 is the first stainless in the Airweight line that I ever owned. I simply preferred blued guns and normally carried either a Model 37 with a home-bobbed-recontoured hammer or the blue steel/alloy frame Model 042/442. I finally gave into the stainless steel's easier maintainance against rust. The surprising thing is that I now pick up an extra stainless/alloy Airweight when I find one like new and at a very decent price! I have enough of them to equip an octopus, but never would have considered one had it not been for that first Model 642.


I wound up with this Ruger SP101 after several months of search for a like-new 3" Model 65 (no lock) to augment my 3" Model 64. The surprising thing about the little Ruger is that I actually like it better! The DA pull was initially not as smooth as the Smith, but it got quite nice and I could stage it quickly for rapid DA shots. The factory grip fits my hand perfectly and this one is stock as a stove other than my smoothing the edges of the trigger. I expected it to be "just" a car gun or something from the second tier in the long run, but it surprised me and has become quite a favorite.


Both the Star Model BM and the 9x18mm Makarov have proven themselves to be quite good little pistols, particularly when considering that both could be had for under $200 not so very long ago. The little Star 9mm has proven itself a reliable little thing (except with Golden Sabers which it absolutely refuses to feed) and the Makarov feeds well and groups far better than expected. "Richard," who posts here and elsewhere, kept singing their praises so I wound up with a Bulgarian and latter a couple of East Germans.
I enjoy shooting them quite a lot. Both of these little things seem to offer considerably better performance that I initially expected.



This early Taurus PT92 has never missed a stutter. It does not have the tens of thousands of rounds downrange that my bevy of Hi Powers and 1911's do, but it has been shot quite a bit. The fixed sights are exactly "on" and it groups pretty well. I'm not a big fan of this Beretta/Taurus design, but I seem to just be unable to get rid of this one. When I bought it, I figured I'd shoot it a bit and trade it off. The surprise is that I just cannot do it.


This Star Model B 9mm was purchased when I saw an ad in the "American Rifleman" offering both them and the Super B (brand new) for sale in the US at very good pricings. It also said that these were "last run" guns. The first centerfire autopistol I bought years earlier was an older Star Model B (NIB) for the princely sum of around $75.00, including a box of ammo!) This particular gun's fixed sights hit extremely high so I had Lou Williamson install some Millett adjustables. The gun groups pretty darned well and has been reliable. I spent more customizing it than I did for the gun, but the slim Star autos just have a certain "grace" about them for me. I would not be afraid to use this one in a fight. This one surprised me in that I really didn't expect to do much but shoot it now and again, but I just liked the gun so much that I wanted it "upgraded" and have never regretted it.


This Norinco 45 was a "shooter" from the get-go. The sights were too small for me and not regulated to the POI, but I home-tinkered this one, but did have a gunsmith (Scott Mays) install the fixed sights which are regulated such that POA=POI. This one groups decently, but nothing special. Its reliability has been great. The surprising thing to me is that I like it as is and am not inclined to try and tighten up its groups. It does around 3 to 3 1/2" @ 25 yards with most loads.


A while back I did an article in a gun magazine about Capt. Dave Sample's Patriot on-line class after handling/shooting/trying-to-steal
a friend's gun that had been made in that proceedure. The gun was well-fitted, grouped like a bat out of you know where, and was reliable; it still is. When my friend and his son decided to build another gun each, I was invited and jumped in. I went for a long-slide .45. The surprise is that it works perfectly, groups very well, and has become a most favored pistol! I was afraid that I'd wind up with an expensive gun that didn't work. Surprise! I was wrong. I am exceptionally proud of this pistol. I just have a "thing" about long-slides and that I have one with about 90 hours of my fooling around with that ACTUALLY works, makes it even better. I am TRYING to resist the urge to do another.



Though not a fan of the .380 or 9x18mm Mak cartridges, I gotta say that this little Bersa surprised the heck out of me. It has never malfunctioned and the sights are dead-bang "on." The price was very reasonable and the DA/SA trigger pulls are better than on my Walther PP and the Bersa doesn't bite me (slide bite) as does the Walther. I may not be a fan of the cartridge, but I am a fan of the Bersa 380.


This S&W Model 24 was purchased used, but like new at a very good price. I had always liked the .44 Special round (handloaded) but was not prepared for how "taken" I wound up being with this S&W N-frame. It is a pleasure to shoot and with "honest" .44 Specials, I don't think it is "lacking" in the power department for critters in my part of the world. With loads it "likes", it's accuracy has been astounding...at least to me.


This Star Model 28 has been customized by Lou Williamson. Large and heavy for caliber, this 9mm groups very, very well. It is like shooting wadcutters from an N-frame S&W. It's inherent accuracy and single-action trigger pull both surprised me greatly. The former can be exceptionally tight with loads it likes while the former IS exceptionally light and clean.


This customized Hi Power was my first and I call it "Number One." It is not surprising that I like the old thing greatly, but the two best shots I ever made were with this pistol, one right after the other, and both shots were witnessed by 2 other people. They were surprised...but not as much as I was, but I lied and said something like, "What? Don't ya'll do that with your guns? Nothing to it." I am not going to mention the shots here for they were probably luck mostly, but it is danged surprising when it happens twice in a row! (This pistol was also sort of a "surprise" to a would-be burglar one night!)

How about you? Do you have any handguns that have surprised you good or bad?

Best.
 

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Hi Stephen,

Thank you for the great subject and great article.

I came into handguns much later than most I'd have to say, but when I started I was younger and raising a family, which left fewer resources to buy a lot of handguns to experiment around with.

There are a few that have made the "do not sell or be traded", because they have suprised me by their features, utility, accuracy and shootability in my hands.

First and formost:



My 642-2 goes everywhere with me. I can shoot it well at close ranges and for the most part consider an "experts" revolver. It is a most trusted companion and I have tried many smaller handguns over the years including Kel Tec's and others. But the 642-2 is with me always.

I have owned a stable of K-frame short barrel S&W handguns, but this one is another that has joined the list of do not trade or sell at any price. My fabulous M-65 with a 3" barrel. I owned one many years back marked "MASS. STATE POLICE" and foolishly sold it. It was my companion on farm and field and I used it as a sidearm when patrolling for feral dogs that used to menace our livestock.



To me, this is the quinessential "perfect sized" 6 shot .357 magnum revolver for carry and SD. It has replaced a couple of K-frames that I have owned and remains my favorite.

I have owned a number of 1911's beginning with the first Springfield Armory Mil Spec that I bought and shot in competition in the early '90's. I also owned one Colt after another and eventually built a Caspian, which later was sold to a friend for money when I got divorced.



This recent S&W 1911 took me by complete suprise! It has many of the features that I added to stock .45's over the years from the factory and I am "blown away" by its accuracy in my hands. It is the "best" of all the 1911's I have owned.

There have been others, but these are the ones I plan on keeping for a long, long time.

Thanks for the great thread!

Chris
 
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SAC, you certainly opened a can of worms. First, I want to take to task on two items. I my memory serves me right I was the catalyst behind your buying your first Norinco 1911A1 and Makarov pistol. We both fell in love with the Star BM separately, my BM came my way when I was short of funds and I wanted a house gun. It is about 18 years now and it is still a great handgun.

I have rarely fired my Star B. Why? The Star B is one of the few pistols that bite the web of my hand. I know I should have the hammer bobbed but I have never gotten around to it.

My friend and FFL guy had a Taurus PT92 that he used for a house gun and I was very impressed with it at the range. In this model, my taste runs more to the stainless model as the one I fired felt like it had a carry bevel done to it. Why don
 

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Stephen,

All I can say is "WOW"!!!! Thanks for the great pictures and the commentary. Of course function and accuracy is the epitome of any weapon, but what first lures me to any firearm besides technical data and info from folks who have actually shot them; and I have to admit it, they have to be "good looking", but without being grandiose. I am a bit old-fashioned and like to keep things simple. For me, the revolver is a thing of beauty. Granted, the semi's make a wonder handgun and in their own right have their good looks too, but I'm a wheel man.

I appreciate all the pics that everyone sends in, this board has drawn me in even though I am mainly a collector of WWI and WWII bolt action rifles, although I do have a few related handguns of that era and a few of the youner generation handguns, ie., 50's - 80's As a new member to this site, I just want to say thanks for the integrity of this site and it members.

Papabear
 
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Here are some of the handguns I bought for no reason and then fell in love with:

Colt Police Positive (Door Stop), I bought it to have it converted to a 32 Magnum. Before this conversion I fired it and I found out it is incredibly accurate. Later, I found out that I am not crazy about the 32 Mag as I prefer the 38 Special and see little the 32 Mag can do that the 38 Special can
 
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Stephen,

All I can say is "WOW"!!!! Thanks for the great pictures and the commentary. Of course function and accuracy is the epitome of any weapon, but what first lures me to any firearm besides technical data and info from folks who have actually shot them; and I have to admit it, they have to be "good looking", but without being grandiose. I am a bit old-fashioned and like to keep things simple. For me, the revolver is a thing of beauty. Granted, the semi's make a wonder handgun and in their own right have their good looks too, but I'm a wheel man.

I appreciate all the pics that everyone sends in, this board has drawn me in even though I am mainly a collector of WWI and WWII bolt action rifles, although I do have a few related handguns of that era and a few of the youner generation handguns, ie., 50's - 80's As a new member to this site, I just want to say thanks for the integrity of this site and it members.

Papabear
Papabear, if you ever want to dump that slug let me know
Your M1917 is about as nice as I have seen. The grips, alone, are worth a pretty penny. If you doubt me try to find a pair like those. Regards, Richard
 

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Hello and thanks very much.

Best.

PS: Richard, you were in fact the "catalyst" on the Makarov. I'd shot the Norincos before but it took a while to find one in the right condition and at the right price.
 

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Regarding "surprises", my Bulgy Makarov surprised me a few weeks ago. Took my 15yr old grandson to the range for some shooting. He was impressed by the Makarov, that it was a Russian military pistol. While shooting it, it went full automatic for one magazine. Either he held the trigger back after he shot it so the hammer went down while the slide was closing, or some strange black magic. Since there is no firing pin spring, the pin just floats and can be pushed forward.
Anyhow, I'm thinking about selling the Makarov. I just like .380acp better. Am I crazy to let it go?
og
 
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oldgrampa, I doubt I would get rid of a Makarov. I like them well enough to own and shoot four. These little jewels are not presently imported in any great numbers and the value is sky rocketing! Regards, Richard
 

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Richard,

That old slug and I go back to 1964
. I have a letter from S&W [dated June 28, 1964] replying to my request for info on the S&W1917, according to the letter the 1917 left the factory Sept 30 1918, and it is signed by H.E. Steins, Service Manager. I doubt it was ever issued, but if it was it was kept in excellent condition. The gentleman I got it off of said he had never shot it, that it was originally his sons that was killed in a car accident and he decided to sell it because it reminded him of his son. He threw in a 1918 G&K holster that is in excellent condition, and a dozen sets of the half moon clips, and another set of the original smooth walnut grips. Oh, in the letter, Mr. Steins also stated that original replacements grips could be obtained at a cost of $5.00 each. Like a dummy I didn't take them up on it, but I did have the extra set included with the 1917. That set is on another S&W 1917, not quite as nice as the one I have in the thumbnail in my signature, but none the less a nice one too. I did win a bid on a nice pair of original 1917 grips about 3 months ago on ebay, with shipping, $86. Thanks for your offer, however, I think I will hang onto it for a while longer.

Papabear
 

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OG, any chance that the firing pin in your Bulgy Mak got stuck in a forward position (due to crud in the channel maybe?) and was hitting the primers as soon as the slide went home each time? And then perhaps all that rapid vibration also shook the crud loose by the end of the eight round blast?

That happened to me with a very dirty Marlin Camp Carbine one time--or at least that was the culprit best I could tell.
 

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hi Brian,
the pistol was extra clean. still think somehow my grandson was not releasing the trigger and it allowed the hammer to drop during cycling. fortunately he continued to aim down range. at home I noted the pin was floating freely.
might have to try it again sometime, maybe I own a small "machinegun"

og
 

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I think the handgun that has surprised me the most has been the Makarov.
Back when the East German Maks were imported I bought one simply because of the low price. For a little over a hundred dollars I didn't expect much, especially from a used communist block pistol.

I was so impressed with the accuracy and quality of the gun I ordered two more, even thought 9x18 ammo was very expensive and hard to get.

Ever since I've been taking home every "good buy" I run across. :)
 

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Guns that surprised me most. The Ruger P95 model is a pretty underrated firearm. I've had one for nearly 7 years now and fired thousands upon thousands of rounds and never once had a failure. It groups acceptably at 25 yards, and can punch a 5-round ragged hole at 10 yards. It was my first handgun (yes 9mm not .22!) and I'm positive that I will have right up until I die. I'm also positive that in that time it will still be as solid and reliable as the day it was built.

The Russian designed CAI (Chinese built) imported Tokarov is another huge surprise. Accurate as can be an cartridge that when you touch it off, leaves NO doubt about having been fired. Even though this one is my father's gun (I'm sure it'll be mine someday, hopefully a long time from now) it gives me great joy to shoot...although batters my poor wrists and hands until it hurts. The 7.62x25mm round is definitely not for the faint of heart and will make shooting full power .45 seem easy. :)

Finally, a gun that was given to me by my mother. A very small H&R .22 LR 6" Target model top break revolver. The gun has tiny, tiny grips...barely enough to three fingers on, with equally tiny sights. Yet remarkably, at 15 yards if you line that tiny half moon sight up in that tiny rear notch and squeeze the oh-so-smooth double action trigger...you ARE going to hit what you're aiming at, again and again. The gun is remarkable tack driver, so quick and easy to shoot, so smooth and actually a lot of fun. Because of the 6" barrel length it has some good velocity from the .22LR cartridge and because it's so light and easy to shoot, I wouldn't be afraid to carry it (yes carry it!) down to 7-11 on a midnight run. :)

Those are a few of my guns that surprised me. I hope over the years for there to be many more.

-Rob
 

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Guns that surprised me?

My first HiPower was bought when I was a confirmed 45ACP guy. Like many 1911 fans, the BHP was probably the only 9mm I would consider owning. I had an indoor range built in a barn at the time, complete with backstops and ventilation, so was shooting the 45s a LOT. That's important to know here, because when I shot the BHP that first time, I shot it a lot better than those guns I was familiar with.
I quickly learned the merits of the HiPower, and have not been without at least one since.

I thought little of the Beretta 92. I traded for one while I had that barn range, and shot it quite a bit to see when and how often it broke. I'm still waiting. I have had three more since, and they were all fine guns. Maybe I'm lucky, but the Beretta 92 series surprised me.

I have zero need for a .375 H&H Magnum. For that matter, I have little need for any rifle larger than .22 Hornet, but that's no reason not to own any. I got a Sako TRG-S Carbine in 375 H&H about 8-10 years ago. It weighs about 7.5 lbs, similar to early AR15/M16s. So it stings a little. But that gun can shoot. Reading about the caliber, it should not surprise me that it is accurate, but it usually does surprise me.

Another gun that proved accurate, to my surprise, is a Walther TPh in .22LR. It fits in one's palm, but can shoot.

Many surprises have been "surplus" rifles. I've bought a few, and some are OK, while others are very nice indeed. Thinking about it now, none were bad. The $189 Winchester M1 Carbine, bought around 15 years ago, may be the best surprise of those. Honorable mention goes to the Swedish Mauser, Swiss Schmidt-Rubin K31, and Enfield No. 4.

The most recent surprise gun is a Pattern 14 Enfield, made by Winchester. I bought it at an auction last winter for something like $120. It had a couple of stock repairs of spliced-in wood that British do, so looked a little ugly. But it shoots.
 
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